Rehabilitating Habitats and Humans - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Rehabilitating Habitats and Humans

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Inmates in three prisons across Nevada are sowing seeds, as part of an effort to restore Greater sage-grouse habitat and keep the bird off the endangered species list.

The Bureau of Land Management and Department of Corrections has teamed up with ecologists from the Oregon non-profit, Institute for Applied Ecology, to sow a total of 105,000 plants that they say will help restore the bird's habitat. The plants will be cared for over the summer and planted in the fall on BLM managed land across Nevada that has been scorched by fire. 

Inmates at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City will be caring for 35,000 sagebrush sprouts over the summer.

"It's great. I couldn't ask for more," says Alan Blank, an inmate with just a little more than a year on his sentence for a felon in possession of a firearm. "...being asked to be in it. It's great, it gets me out here and mess with the plants and stuff, I enjoy anyways. So that's good."

Project coordinators say the Greater sage-grouse population once numbered in the millions across the Western United States but say that number has declined to somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 birds.

Contractor Shannon Swim, a University of Nevada graduate, is working alongside the inmates as the seeds are planted and cared for on a day-to-day basis. 

"The project is a win-win for the State of Nevada. Inmates acquire horticulture and team building skills at the same time they are helping restore sage-grouse habitat on federal lands," says Swim.

"I committed a crime and by me doing this project it makes me feel good to give back to the community," says Stanley Locus, an inmate serving time for violating his parole.

Dr. Darcy Davis, Quality Assurance Manager for Behavioral Programs with NDOC, is also working closely with inmates and staff. 

"Inmates come to us from a criminal culture and this type of activity provides an opportunity to develop pro-social attitudes, values and behaviors. Research shows that by addressing these areas, we may be able to reduce the likelihood of these inmates committing future crimes," says Davis.

"I promise it, I won't make it back. I'm learning something and I'm meeting nice people you know. I plan on staying out." says Locus. 

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